It began in 2005 with what I thought was a severe sinus infection.
I had a semi stuffy nose, intense pain in my sinus cavities (all of them!) and my teeth and the roof of my mouth were very painful and my EAR, oh, god, my inner ear was throbbing and on fire with pain, keeping me awake at night.
Working at a clinic has it's perks. One of them is "hallway medicine". It begins with "hey doc, I have a sore throat, (ear ache, head ache, sinus infection...you fill in the affliction) and ends with the doctors humbled opinion and a prescription. For free. As an administrator, I would have to discourage that practice, because you really do not receive the best health care advice, or a complete examination or the undivided attention of the doctor...but it happens all day long and everyone is guilty of it. So, in 2005 with all my symptoms and all my pain, I could barely lift my head, my eyes were starting to puff up, and before I took off 1/2 day, I thought I'd better get an antibiotic for the "sinus infection " gone awry. The doctor looked at my chart, and then up at me, "I'm not convinced that this is a sinus infection. You have come to me once a month for the past 6 or 7 months, I think it's time you go see an ENT" The appointment was a week away. The ENT took one look at my, grossly exaggerated features swollen and gray with pain and claimed that I did not have a sinus infection, he suspected something much more sinister. He suspected Trigeminal Neuralgia, something I had not heard of. EVER. He said the absence of certain diagnostic positive exams were the key to diagnosing this syndrome. (For example: I had no fluid in the ears or in the nasal cavity. No fever. No drainage down my throat, no cough, no sign of bacterial or viral infection) A CT of the brain confirmed it. Yeah, there was nothing in there - go ahead, I'll pause for the jokes.
There were a series of appointments with my neurologists and family doctors, who tried a variety of mind numbing painkillers and seizure medications (that's how they control the inflammation of the nerve ending - with seizure medications) and appointments with fancy doctors at University of Chicago. (unimpressive and expensive) I had serious complications from a mixture of drugs that actually paralyzed my right side one afternoon, and I've had drug failures. I've tried homeopathic massage, I've tried diet restrictions. I'd try voodoo and black magic if I thought I could trust the caregiver! Mostly I sat in a recliner with a bag of frozen corn on my neck and head waiting for the pain to subside or the Darvocet to kick in. Oh, I could take stronger meds, like Dilaudid, which I did for awhile, but then I'm all groggy and dopey. I can't really function like that, go to work, carry on a conversation, blog...
The residual "gift" that TN has left me is mind blowing migraines. Cluster headaches that last for weeks or months. Every day I open my eyes to head aches that get worse as the day grows long.
This past Friday, I'd been suffering with a migraine for 4 weeks, and the doctor I work with who manages my pain, convinced me to give the pain patch another try. I had a rather unsuccessful turn of events (called near overdose) during the first year I had this syndrome and I never wanted to visit that again. But she ordered a lower dosage and thought I'd have better pain control 24-7, with it.
Let me tell you!!!! After two days on it, I am a new person! I feel well again! I'm a little wobbly and wiggy at times (usually before I eat - seems that it metabolizes better with food in your belly than without) but other than that I'm pain free! Side affects are: snoring and talking in my sleep - I'm sleeping like I'm dead to the world!
I love you tiny little patch. This here's an ode to the patch! Here's to a weekend painfree! I'm actually able to do things instead of lay in that chair!
More on the affects of chronic pain on you and those around you at another time, another blog post...